The National Christmas Center is a unique Christmas attraction: a year-round museum dedicated to the holiday itself. More specifically, the museum and its surprisingly large collection of Christmas memorabilia offers a look back on centuries of holiday traditions in an effort to evoke Norman Rockwell images of Christmas past, a mission in which it is quite successful. The National Christmas Center is the brainchild of founder and curator, Jim Morrison (not of “The Doors” fame).
The museum touches on every aspect of Christmas imaginable, from the story of the Nativity to 20th century holiday traditions. Much of the museum focuses on the history of Christmas celebrations in America, with exhibits on Christmas at the turn of the century; Christmas in Amish country; Christmas during World War II; and Christmas during the 1950s, including a recreation of a mid-century Woolworth’s store all decked out for the holidays, with real vintage toys and wares on display.
Of course, there are also exhibits on the history of Santa Claus and toys, including displays of everything from holiday antiques to nativity scenes to electric trains. Perhaps the highlight of the museum from a religious standpoint is the wonderful exhibit on the story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Life-size displays recreate the Nativity, including the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as well as what life was like in ancient Judea, all culminating in a triumphant manger scene.
The National Christmas Center is located in the small town of Paradise approximately ten miles east of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It is open March and April Saturdays & Sundays from 10:00am-6:00pm; May through December daily from 10:00am-6:00pm (late hours on Fridays and Saturdays). The museum is closed in January and February accept by prior arrangement. The cost of admission is $11.00. Web: www.nationalchristmascenter.com (official website of the National Christmas Center)